Why people are tapping into this unique form of stress relief

Turns out that tapping fingers isn’t just for the bored and impatient – it’s being used to alleviate everything from stress to cravings and pain.

It may sound too good to be true. If you start to feel anxious, angry or stressed, tap pressure points on your face and upper body and repeat a simple phrase to ease those uncomfortable feelings.

The ideas is that you will reduce the amount of stress hormone – cortisol – flooding your body and so regain some sense of calm and control.

In Australia, tapping – or  emotional freedom techniques (EFT) – has been used to help manage obesity and food cravings, smoking, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and pain.

But what is it and how does it work?

“Tapping is similar to acupuncture but it doesn’t use needles on pressure points. Instead we use two fingers and tap to stimulate pressure points on the face and upper body,” explains Dr Peta Stapleton of Bond University in Queensland.

The eight points of tapping therapy

Eight tapping points are used: On the start of the eyebrow; side of the eye; under the eye; under the nose; directly under the lips; 2.5cm under the collarbone; under the arm in line with the nipple; and on the centre of the head.

At the same time as gently tapping each of those points in turn, people repeat a simple phrase that sums up how they are feeling, such as, “I feel angry, I feel angry” or “I feel sad, I feel sad”.

“Say out loud a few words that express how you feel. And you repeat and tap until you feel the anger or stress ease,” says Dr Stapleton.

“It may take five to 10 minutes to shift how you feel and change the level of cortisol in your body.”

At the beginning, rate your feelings on a scale of 1 to 10 and stop when your rating drops to a 1 or 2, says Dr Stapleton.


How does tapping therapy work?

Through the pressure points, tapping has an effect on the amygdala and hippocampus in the brain that affect stress and memory.

Dr Stapleton says research has shown that the technique helps lower cortisol in our body that increases stress.

A Bond University study compared the effects on cortisol levels of an hour of tapping compared with spending that time reading magazines, or being taught about stress and how it impacts the body.

The tapping group had a 43 per cent reduction in cortisol compared with a 19.5 per cent drop in cortisol in those who learned about stress and a 2 per cent reduction for those who read magazines.

How to try tapping

Dr Stapleton adds that while tapping can help improve mental health, anyone taking medication for conditions such as depression should not stop taking it.

But the technique can be a useful tool to help alleviate specific symptoms such as feeling tired and mental fog.

“Once you learn how to tap you can do it on yourself,” says Dr Stapleton.

“You can learn from an expert or practice using videos available online. People are surprised that it is so simple and at how quickly it can work.”

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Written by Sarah Marinos.